By Njonjo Mue
In 1963 a delegation of Kenyan politicians from across the political divide gathered in Lancaster House to negotiate the country’s independence constitution. There was a long stand-off between KANU and KADU with the former favouring a centralized system of governance and the latter favouring a decentralized Majimbo system.
Exhausted at the slow pace of the negotiations and knowing he had ‘the numbers’ in the forthcoming elections at the end of May 1963, Jomo Kenyatta called out his delegates and told them he was going to agree to the Majimbo constitution to enable them to get on with the election, and as soon as they had won the election and formed government, then they would re-make the constitution in their own image.
And so the delegates returned to Kenya with the Majimbo constitution and an election was held which KANU won handsomely allowing them to form government with Kenyatta as the first Prime Minister.
True to his word, soon after independence, Kenyatta led the process of mutilating the constitution to centralize all power to himself. He began by starving the regional governments of resources, then wooed the opposition to his side leading to its dissolution. He dissolved the Senate and abolished the regional governments. From there it was downhill all the way as Kenya became a one party dictatorship first under Kenyatta and then under Moi.
Fast forward to 2010. Some politicians and power elites were hugely alarmed at the new constitution with its radical transformation agenda. Some of these individuals were honest enough to openly vote ‘No’ at the referendum. Others took a tactical retreat and, like Kenyatta in 1963, accepted the new constitution without any commitment to it. And like Kenyatta, they were biding their time awaiting the election that would give them the power they needed to start mutilating the constitution.
Now the election has come and gone (though the outcome is not yet settled, at least not till Saturday), but ‘the numbers’ I see in both chambers of the legislature are a cause for alarm. I get this eerie feeling that we are back in the 1960s. Even the cold war is beginning to replay itself with the East rushing to identify with one side and the West treading more cautiously.
After the dust settles on the election, something tells me our constitution will face an existential threat. The question then will be, shall we stand up to be counted when we are once again threatened by the forces of tyranny, or shall we be content to leave the fate of Kenya in the hands of our ethnic warlords and their gatekeepers?